As I waited in line at a concert one night, I heard a man say under his breath, "Eat a hamburger!" I paid no attention. He continued, louder this time. "Do Africans pay a dollar a day to send you food?" "Does the seesaw even move when you sit down?" I pushed through the crowd, mildly creeped out but putting no thought into the words the man had just called me. Looking back, what he said to me was wrong. But why did I not see it at the time?
Frankly, I am used to it. Friends, family members and strangers alike have always made references to my weight. Usually my reactions have centered around defending myself, pointing out that, yes, I do eat a lot and, no, I do not have an eating disorder. But the mere fact that I have to defend myself about something I cannot control is incredibly frustrating. And the ironic thing is that now, in 2014, the nation seems to be so much more accepting about differences among people that cannot be changed, including body weight. But why, in this so-called "time of acceptance," is there a double standard? Why do we get judged for not being skinny, but then called out for being "too skinny"? Is there any way to win?
In the eyes of mass media, there isn't. Right next to a magazine advertising the latest diet is another criticizing a celebrity's dangerous weight loss. It is practically impossible to check one's social media feed without being bombarded by countless advertisements on the secret to losing weight or being beautiful. Understandably, this is very confusing for consumers, particularly adolescents, who are so consumed in social networks and technology. The media has created a standard for beauty that is virtually impossible to achieve, yet people, especially women, consistently strive for perfection, hurting themselves in the process.
According to a study conducted by the National Institute on Media and Family, the amount of time an adolescent watched television shows, movies and music videos is associated with their degree of body dissatisfaction and desire to be thin. In a study conducted by the Social Issues Research Center, the current media ideal of weight for women is achievable by less than 5 percent of the female population. Among women over 18 years-old, 80 percent of them are unhappy with their body.
Obviously, this is a problem. However, it is something that we as a society can solve. As cliché as it sounds, realizing that the media's standard of beauty is unrealistic is probably the first and most important step. By realizing this, we not only have more confidence in ourselves, but also have more acceptance and respect for each other. This newfound outlook on ourselves and others will allow us to collaborate as equals, and prove that beauty truly is in the eyes of the beholder.
Oh, and I'll pass on the hamburger.